Uniform Wake in Fright(Sacred Bones Records) Buy it from Insound
“It’s all so horrible, isn’t it? The nightmare of childhood and it only gets worse.”
By the time Uniform’s Wake in Fright ends, its final track Light at the End (Effect) opening with the above words offered as assurance of our imminent decline, reflection seems pointless. As does movement. Or growth. Why not just quit if we’re all just going through the motions, aimless and in denial of our own insignificance and futility?
But, this isn’t about the insignificance or futility of life and those who live it. Wake in Fright is a politicking time tomb and an examination of the trappings of hopelessness and boredom, the sort of environs that might cause one to look to chemicals to provide answers, answers that eventually consume the body, mind, and spirit while in pursuit of the bliss of momentary disconnection. As the track Habit pulses, the admittance to its namesake speaks truthfully: “Always on my mind.” It’s a study in struggle, a message that’s well conveyed even if every word isn’t always completely understood.
The work of vocalist Michael Berdan and guitarist/producer Ben Greenberg, Uniform’s programmed rushes of drum sounds and a not so optimistic disposition find cathartic means of confessing vulnerability with punishing rage, tirades powered by a muddy apparatus of chords and electronics. The first few seconds of Tabloid are abrupt and disorienting, expressing intent to suffer through song for the album’s length. It’s both preparation and spoiler.
As the drum machines echo, one can find connection with Godflesh at their heaviest or Suicide at their most eerie. The rhythmic pulse of The Lost seems to combine the two, one of the album’s few instances of groove anchoring fluctuating synthesized tones and the crunch of Greenberg’s strum. The intensity is upped with the first 45 seconds of The Light at the End (Cause), whose torrent of blast beats suddenly end with the track’s remaining minutes a frustrated series of ailing drones and Berden spouting a continuous stream of pain and despair. It’s unsettling to say the least and, as if meant to end the more self-involved portion of Uniform’s story, attention is suddenly turned to gun violence with the track, The Killing of America, the album’s most accessible track.
Bootlicker finds a clean and sober individual in the throes of addiction once again as a wildly abrasive and relentless combination of battery and brawn drown out Berden’s holler. With Night of the Fear, the machinery clanks like misery’s assembly line, an insomniac’s thoughts alive and rampant while rest is so desperately wanted and needed.
While I wouldn’t put Uniform’s brand of anxiety and the discomfort they generate to the level of labelmate Pharmakon, an artist of similarly dark and mechanized persuasion, Uniform’s American nightmare is relatable and honest, revealing the dangers of dependency, the want of escape, and the problematic effects one can experience while trying to end that bond. One can’t say that there’s hope within the contents of Wake in Fright, (one might even say it’s a tad overwrought), but it’s a story worth telling nonetheless.26 January, 2017 - 04:24 — Sean Caldwell